Back in September, when we thought we were living through the worst of the pandemic (I’ll pause here while you get that hysterical laughter under control), I’d had it with humanity. Sure, there are a lot of individual humans that I like—love, really—but by September, humanity as a whole had reached a whole new level of catastrophe (I still hear you snickering).
Anyway, I had reached a low point. I was very busy with contract writing for work, which was great and a blessing, but I’d lost all motivation for any other type of writing, such as fiction or essays or even my blog.
We’ve all been there, as writers or artists of any type. Those moments bowl us over, usually when we least expect it. Moments when we lay our pen or brush or guitar down and ask, “Why bother?” Our reasons are innumerable. Our results are identical.
We stop creating.
We turn our back on the art that flows through our veins. (Okay, so that’s an anatomically impossible metaphor. I’ll work on that in the revision phase. Maybe.)
We hear a character knocking at our inner door, asking “Hey, anybody in there? Can I get a story please? Or a scene? How about a paragraph? You left me right in the middle of that embarrassing bit with the dog, remember?” But we don’t have the energy to get up off the couch and open that door. That character will just be wearing a mask and keeping their distance anyway, and readers can spot that distance in a heartbeat. Why bother?
Yeah, so that’s where I was in September. Then I got a call from a friend.
She and her husband, son, and another friend were headed to their houseboat on Lake Powell, in Southern Utah, and there was room for me and my husband. Did we want to go?
Escape from the self-isolation and spend a week with friends who we trusted had been just as careful, masked, and relentlessly germ-free as us? And spend that week on a boat isolated in the middle of an enormous lake, far from the madding crowd? You betcha. One catch: my husband couldn’t get away from work.
I guess I’m a bad wife, because I said, “See ya, handsome. There are some frozen dinners in the freezer.”
I threw my bags in the car, fled an incoming Colorado snowstorm, drove the nine hours to Lake Powell, threw my bags on the boat, slid on my flipflops, cracked open a beverage, and settled into a chair on the deck.
Although I’ve spent a lot of time in Southern Utah’s beautiful red-rock country, Lake Powell was new to me.
Lake Powell is a flooded red-rock landscape of steep canyons, fathomless black water, heart-stopping blue skies, and dazzling stars.
It is a place of wild, spectacular beauty. A place where a thousand variations of a single color streak across a sandstone wall. A place where a riot of footprints in the sand speaks of secret wildlife you’ll never see.
Within an hour or two, I felt my writer’s blood begin to quicken. I found myself trying to put names to nature, find new words for ancient stones, use sentences to untangle my senses. Mars reflecting in the water became more than visual – could I hear it? The great overhang of black-varnished red rock above my head was defined more by the sound of its echoes and the scent of its vastness than by the stunningly blue sliver of sky it allowed in.
By evening, I was overwhelmed by creative energy. Turns out that energy hadn’t abandoned me, after all. It had been there all along. I’d just forgotten to look for it. When I slowed down long enough to feel it once again, taste it, smell it, fill my skin with it, I realized how much I’d missed it. But it was my own fault – I’d simply forgotten to look for it.
Now, by taking myself out of my daily routines and separating myself from the grueling news cycles and relentless complaints of this Covid-ransacked era for only a few hours, I was once again feeling beauty (or creativity, or spirit, or whatever your name for it is) flow around me, as deep and as constant—yet as variable—as the water we floated on. Energy like that can be hard to harness, harder still to ride. But that’s no reason not to try.
I pulled out a notebook and pen, and I began to write.